Making the Sale !!

This past week has been one of transitions. My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and our oldest child was getting ready to leave home. We’re excited that Melanie is moving and continuing her career as an Occupational Therapist in Indianapolis, Indiana. A few weeks earlier, our son Josh, moved from Ohio to California, so our adventure as empty nesters is on the near horizon.

To get ready for Melanie’s move, we took a trek up to Indy to shop for furniture for her new apartment. She’s been working for a year and wanted to get her own things. We agreed and thought it would be fun to help her out. She was going to be purchasing everything, but she wanted us to check things out and share our opinion. My wife and I are grateful that we have solid relationships with both of our kids. They touch base every so often which is just enough. We don’t have any intention of being helicopter parents. We want to see our kids stand on their own and thrive !!

Back to the shopping excursion . . .

I don’t know about you, but I dread shopping for furniture. I love meandering through the stores and sitting on various sofas and chairs. I also love seeing the different styles, colors and shapes of things that can accent a house. The reason I dread furniture shopping is the immediate accosting that happens when you step two feet into a store by an over eager salesperson.

Now, I understand this is their occupation and respect that. I appreciate that they have knowledge of pricing, financing, dimensions and availability. What I can’t stand, from the majority of them, is their approach. They know why you’re visiting the store, and yet you still get asked, “Are you here to find some furniture?” We both know we are, but they use this mundane and obvious greeting for one reason which is to set their hooks in you. This ties them to you and gives them a chance at commission while also fending off the other salespeople also lurking at the front door.

The first store we visited caught me off guard. We visited Value City Furniture, and the salespeople greeted us and said to contact them if we needed them. Then we roamed freely for an hour !! It was bliss. It also allowed my daughter to take her time and see what she did/didn’t like. Roger, who met us at first, came up to us after an hour and then assisted us in purchasing a sofa and a love seat. He gave us all of the details and was outstanding. He also worked directly with my daughter since she was the purchaser.

The second store was an even better experience !! We went to Bob’s Discount Furniture and met Chauncey. He lit up the showroom and was warm, welcoming and hilarious. He worked directly with our daughter while also checking in with us to make sure she found what she needed. He had one liner jokes that put us at ease even though they were outlandish and cheesy. He chose to be intentional and engaging while also allowing us the time we needed. Melanie ended up getting a bedroom set from him.

The third store we saw brought back my anxiety, dread and past experience. We were ambushed at the door and the young man said he wouldn’t stalk us, but gave us a coupon that we could show other salespeople slowly circling for their next kill to keep them at bay. He said he’d be back in 10 to 15 minutes which really meant three. Oh, and he only addressed me as the man/father of our group. He never talked to my daughter because she obviously wouldn’t be the one paying. We walked out.

The key to all of this is relationship building. Every salesperson I know states they believe in doing this, but few practice it. I wish that people would take the cues from Roger and Chauncey !! Each of them were willing to stay in touch and allow us to have a good experience. The time they allowed for latitude ended up securing a sale for each of them. Neither had the same style, but they understood the value of meeting us where we were.

In HR we don’t think we “sell”, but that just isn’t true. Every day we are selling to make sure people have a great experience in their roles. Too often we buy the myth that we are pressed for time and that we just don’t have enough time in our day to invest in others. That, my friends, is sad.

The poor reputation that haunts our profession can be tied almost exclusively to our approach towards others. If we’d see the value of making the time to build relationships, our “sales” record would drastically improve !!

This week make time for those you work with and teach others the value of this practice. Make it your norm like Roger and Chauncey do. Trust me, you’ll start seeing the value in others, and your experience as an HR pro will get better on purpose.

You Never Know

I’m still recovering from SHRM18. There were so many memorable experiences that it’s hard to capture them all. I had the chance to see old friends, meet some folks who’ve I’ve only known through social media and also meet a ton of new people. If you haven’t gathered my focus yet, the SHRM Annual Conference, and any HR event for that matter, is about the people.

I was in a very unique position this year in that I spoke at two Mega Sessions during the conference. They’re called “mega” because the room you are in is usually vast. I mean it. Vast !! I scoped out the room for my first presentation the day before people arrived for the conference and it took my breath away. No one was even in the room yet. As the time arrived for me to speak, the room filled up. The entire room and there were folks outside the hall in an overflow section. I was geeked by the turnout and a bit anxious to be honest.

I don’t normally like to talk about when I present because I consider it an honor any time I get an opportunity to do it. There’s no greater thrill than to speak to my peers. That’s a fact.

After the first presentation, I was overwhelmed by the response. I couldn’t leave the room for many minutes. I was floored by the people who came up for a hug and some reassurance. There were many laughs and tears shared. I was surprised by how many people stated that they were considering leaving HR, but they were reinvigorated and said they’d stay in the field after I spoke. That is humbling beyond measure. You have no idea.

You never know how you’ll be received if you have the opportunity to speak at an event. I never take it for granted. I heard several people say they just were glad to hear something positive for a change about the work they did. It seems so simple, but it is unfortunately missing in our profession. Instead of lifting each other up, we spend more time criticizing and tearing down our circumstances and the people we work with. It still floors me that there are so many HR peers who spend so much time being discouraged.

The second day was even more overwhelming than the first. I spoke after the final keynote and it’s when many attendees head home. The next room was overflowing once again. It was hard to hold back tears just looking out over the crowd. Once I was finished, I had to do my best to get back to the SHRM Store to do the other surreal thing I get to do now – sign books. However, I needed to make sure to get back. As I was leaving, the most amazing encounter happened.

A young man asked to talk with me and he saw I was in a rush. He introduced himself as Usman from Pakistan and he just wanted a few moments of my time. I asked him to walk with me, and he was kind enough to oblige. He told me how exciting it was to hear about having HR be people-centric, and it’s something he wanted to see happen where he worked. He told me he was going to buy copies of my book for his entire staff. I was crushed by this. Others had done this (also amazing), but he was going to buy 38 copies and take them home to Pakistan from Chicago !!

He was kind enough to stand in line with others and I asked him to wait to be the last person because of so many purchases. He agreed and then he called a member of his team in Pakistan to get the names of his staff. She worked to get the names and asked for ten minutes to get him the names. It was 11:00pm at night where she was !! She sent a list and I sat with Usman and personalized each book.

Then . . .

We ran out of names and he had six copies remaining. He said that one was for him and the other five were for people that he was planning to hire in the future. They weren’t even on his team yet. He said that he wanted them to have the same positive message to work from as the people they would be joining.

You see, you never know . . .

This week make sure you encourage the people who come into your life at work, at home, at school or out in public. They long to be like the people I met. They want someone to believe in them and they want to belong. You can make that happen. You may be the one connection that makes a difference.

You never know !!

Just Flourish !!

Unless you’re a self-avowed hermit, you’re surrounded by people. It’s inevitable that there are humans around you the majority of your day. Since that is the environment you find yourself in, you have a choice to embrace it or avoid it. This isn’t due to where you fall on the extroversion/introversion scale. You will choose how much human interaction works for you – and you should. We all have a limit. If we cross that, we tend to get frustrated, flustered and annoyed.

Being with people is more than just swimming among others as you pass through the hallways to their office/cubicle to have work related conversations. That type of interaction is necessary in order for good work to be accomplished. I would almost categorize those instances as “forced.” I don’t mean that you are reluctant to have conversations. It’s more like you have work conversations in order to get the next facet of your work at hand to move forward. They can be friendly, cantankerous or obligatory. They happen whether you “wanted” to have them or not.

The difficulty I see that happens all around me is that these pass by conversations make up the vast majority of communication today. It’s not only at work either. When people are using social media, you get quick snippets of partial thoughts. Or, you may get a picture in time of a great event or accomplishment. People taking time at home to truly interact without distraction is becoming an extinct approach. Again, I’m not making a right/wrong judgement here. It’s our reality and we need to acknowledge it. However, it doesn’t have to define us !!

Taking time to develop relationships has become a lost art. Unfortunately, the word “relationship” has been tarnished because of the unacceptable actions of some. That doesn’t have to be the case. Investing your time with others is incredibly valuable, and also necessary !!

We are never fulfilled when we only have pass-by conversations. We feel that something is missing because we can’t keep current with the pace. We don’t push through it enough because we’re concerned that the other person won’t reciprocate. I haven’t found that to be the case. In fact, I think people flourish when you give them your intentional time and attention.

I’d like to propose a different approach for you personally and especially if you’re in HR. Choose to have relationships that flourish !!

I think there are different gradients in this and you need to read the other person to see when they feel that things are full. Respect that. I mean it. Flourishing relationships have balance, mutual levels of input and especially authenticity. You can’t “fake it to  you make it” and have a meaningful friendship.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I use my commute differently than most. I’m in the car about an hour each way to and from work. Every night I call people and have long conversations. We talk about work, HR, life, etc. There are inevitable times of laughter as well as times of deep philosophy. We may argue various styles of music and ask for each other’s support in the situations we are each facing in life.

The point is this. I want to pour into their lives so that they will pour into the lives of others !! I know that every moment I can invest in the lives of others that they will invest in others as well. When this happens, then lives improve. When lives improve, relationships improve. And, when relationships improve that grows into other relationships to improve the workplace. This isn’t Utopian. It works.

So, this week in the midst of the pass-by snippets of conversation that will still fly around you, invest in someone. Start with a close friend. Make that relationship flourish and then build from there. You’ll be glad you did !!

A or B ??

Do you remember taking multiple choice quizzes and exams? I always enjoyed them more than essay questions because you could at least make a choice. Every so often though you’d have a quiz where the answer could be “a”, “b”, “c”, “a and b”, etc. That was difficult because you had to put more thought into your response versus rushing through the exam with your No. 2 pencil to just get done.

We like clarity in the workplace. We’d prefer to have things fall into a multiple choice format so that tasks and relationships would fall into place smoothly. This may work well with things and tasks, but it rarely is that clear when it comes to working with people. This is because people are so diverse in every way.

I heard some sage advice recently from my pastor who was talking about relationships. He stated that when it comes to interactions between people we can either choose “a” or “b” broken down like this . . .

A = Assume the worst and B = Believe the best

A or BIt floored me !! This is so true in our workplaces and especially in Human Resources. Far too often I think the majority of people choose to assume the worst in others. Even before any words are shared, we make assumptions about how the conversation is sure to progress. We get bogged down and think that every time we meet with someone it’s going to result in more work for us. The power of this negative approach is extremely hard to ignore. It’s also challenging because we “just know” that the person we’re interacting with is assuming the worst as well.

I’m a choice “b” person !! I honestly go into situations believing the best will happen. It’s something that was modeled by my parents and it always seemed to work and also felt natural. It’s odd that even as I type this I sense people reading this and being skeptical or cynical. Believing the best of others doesn’t mean being naive or Utopian. Let’s be honest about something – I know that people will disappoint me because I’ve disappointed others !! Choosing to believe the best does not mean to overlook situations or treat them at a surface level.

I just don’t think something bad is going to happen when I meet other people. In fact, if someone does disappoint and/or hurt me, I will still believe the best will happen the next time I meet with them. I have come across some people who want to intentionally try to not let me believe the best in them, but I try because I think they deserve it.

If you choose to believe the best, I promise you that HR will be great for you every single day. It doesn’t have to be a battle for you to choose “b” and not “a.” I think it’s key to surround yourself with others who believe the best. There may not be as many of us around, but there are quite a few. Connect with them and see how much this group will encourage you to keep believing.

So, here’s the test for you as you enter the workweek – “A” or “B” – what will your choice be ??

Being there !!

One of the coolest outcomes of being involved in social media is meeting the folks behind their avatars.  The vast majority of folks I’ve met rock and the “connection” we had on-line has turned into friendships that have relevance and meaning.

Paul HebertToday we are celebrating one of my dearest friendships that came from the various forums, and that is with Paul Hebert.  Last year a tradition of #TimSackettDay was started for the inimitable Tim Sackett. To have it be #PaulHebertDay this year is just as cool !!

Paul reached out one day when I mentioned that the HR Roundtable that I facilitate in Cincinnati was going to be on Incentives and Recognition.  For those of you who don’t yet know Paul – he is THE go to resource in this area in the country !!  (Not an embellishment.  It’s a fact !!)  He wanted to Skype in or call in to be part of the discussion.  I said that I hadn’t had that type of request before because it’s better as a live forum.  He asked when it was happening.  I told him and he said, ” I’ll be there !! ”

Now, the commute from Greenville, South Carolina to Cincinnati, Ohio takes a bit of time – say 6 1/2 hours or so.  He gets the prize for longest distance traveled to be at a Roundtable to date !!  When he popped out of the car, I ran to hug him because that’s what I do when I see a friend.  He was a bit taken aback for a sec, but he knew it was what brothers do.

First time we met in person.  First, now of many !!  We saw each other at HRevolution in Atlanta, SHRM National 2012, Ohio SHRM (where he rocked it as a speaker) and most recently at GCHRA in Cincinnati.  We always make time to catch up, share ideas and most importantly challenge each other !!

You see, I dig Paul because he’s very intentional about life – as am I.   I think that’s one of the key elements that ties us together.  Most people shy away from folks who are fully intentional, but not Paul.  He is always willing to mold thoughts, give various perspectives and hone our conversations.  I don’t get mad about this.  I CHERISH IT !!

He’s facing a serious health issue right now, and true to nature, he put up a blog to share about his experience and I love it.  In spite of the blog, I call him because talking to him is more intentional and that is what we’ve come to expect from each other.

He’s pulling through this challenge and then he’s launching into his new business relationship with Symbolist. I’m geeked for him and for the great work that is going to come from this partnership !!

When Paul wrote about coming to Cincy for the HR Roundtable, he used the Proclaimers fab one-hit wonder – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).  In the lyrics they state how the person would be there for his friend no matter what.  That’s what #PaulHebertDay is to me.

I will be there for him no matter what !!

Make sure you get to know Paul.  You’re life will be more intentional and only brighter because of it !!